Dell to Linux users: Not so fast

Dell is not yet building machines with Linux pre-loaded for consumer and business markets

If you're looking for a new Linux-equipped Dell laptop or desktop from the PC vendor, you may be waiting a while.

Despite obvious support for the idea last week from thousands of visitors on its new customer suggestion Web site IdeaStorm, the company said it's not yet building machines with Linux pre-loaded for the consumer and business markets.

Last Friday night, Dell posted a note on the IdeaStorm Web site saying it was listening to thousands of users who had posted messages asking for Linux on its machines by moving forward to certify three of its corporate hardware lines -- OptiPlex desktops, Latitude notebooks and Dell Precision workstations -- for use with Novell SUSE Linux.

The company said Tuesday that the note was just about certifying the hardware for being ready to work with Novell SUSE Linux, not an announcement that the computers would be loaded and sold with the operating system in the near future.

"Our point of view is that we are listening to our Linux customers," said Jeremy Bolen, a Dell spokesman. He noted that the company already offers factory-installed Linux on some specific Dell Precision workstations for high-end corporate users, but is not currently installing the OS on its other laptop or desktop machines. "However, I won't rule out the option of expanding the pre-installation program at a future date," Bolen said.

Dell is continuing to talk with the makers of other Linux distributions about certifying the hardware for those Linux distributions, he said. "When you talk about an operating system, if Dell is going to install it and test it, it takes a lot of work" before getting it ready for the marketplace, including having training and support in place.

Dell spokeswoman Caroline Dietz said that the company's first post last Friday about certifying machines for Novell SUSE Linux on the IdeaStorm site is only the beginning of such posts by the vendor. "This is an ongoing process," Dietz said. "We're constantly monitoring this and constantly updating this. This first post doesn't mean that this is all we're doing."

The IdeaStorm Web site, where customers and other IT enthusiasts can offer recommendations about future Dell products and configurations that they'd want to buy, was started on Feb. 16 by CEO Michael Dell. He is looking for ways to re-energize the company's sales and financial performance after several disappointing quarters.

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Todd R. Weiss

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